Foundation Studies Mathematics teacher Tony Klemm talks about teaching and the use of maths in the real world.
It is amazing how fast time flies. I began teaching at Trinity in 2001 as a temporary replacement for one of the Mathematics 2 teachers for a year. Low and behold, this turned into 15 years in two 7 year periods with a 1-year gap. Now I have finally `retired’. (But still doing mathematics.)
It has been a joy to guide students through the transition from High school to University, especially my pupils of July Fast Track and October Fast Track. I always loved the orientation and the activities we participated in at that time. A wonderful chance of getting to know each other, both student to student and student to staff.
I always enjoyed teaching mathematics, especially because my students were good at maths, and they grasped new concepts very quickly. It was a pleasure to introduce the students to examples of outstanding events predicted by mathematics to within an accuracy of seconds.
One such example has a history that is related to Australia’s existence. The Sun, planets, and asteroids of our Solar system lie roughly in a plane, occasionally the Sun, Venus, and Earth lie in a line. When this happens a viewer at a suitable position on Earth would see Venus pass across the Sun – ‘The transit of Venus’. Thanks to Isaac Newton and detailed calculations, astronomers in England knew that a transit would occur in some places in the Pacific Ocean on 3 June 1769. Because Venus was important to navigation, the Admiralty chose a young Captain, James Cook, to sail off in 1767 to reach Tahiti in time to observe the transit. But he had secret further orders – seek out a Great Southern land by sailing across all of the southern Pacific Ocean. He was the first European to sight, name, and claim for England, the east coast of `New South Wales’ in 1770 – thanks to Venus!
Transits occur in pairs about 8 years apart. But then we have to wait one or two centuries for the next pair. We were fortunate that a pair occurred over the first and second decade of this century. The first on 8 June 2004 - but was visible only in the British Isles. However, the second of the pair was on 6 June 2012, visible from Melbourne at about 11am. Cathy Symington and I made a pin-hole `camera’ which shone the Sun onto a sheet of cardboard. (You should never look directly at the Sun)! Thus a privileged group of Trinity students saw the Transit of Venus – and photographed the event. It was so special – the next transit will occur on 11 December 2117! But don’t worry, Halley’s Comet will arrive earlier – 28 July 2061. Hope you get to see it…